Headache medicine’s problems with legitimacy persist despite the “discovery” of a neurobiological mechanism underlying migraine. For while the emphasis on the brain does somewhat mitigate migraine’s association with psychosomatic, feminized personalities, locating migraine in the brain also managed to inscribe gendered cultural assumptions about the personalities of headache patients into the physical structure of their bodies. The newly biomedicalized migraine has not eliminated characterizations of a migraine patient as a particular kind of person, but instead has transformed the moral character of the migraine patient into a new, still highly gendered biomedical configuration.
Nice writeup of this meta analysis in Nature. If you don’t want to do the free registration to read the genomeweb piece, they 38 loci (loci = spot in the genome) associated with migraine, including 28 that had never been found before.
A couple interesting things about this study:
13 loci have previously been associated with migraine and this study replicated 10 of them. False positives are a big problem in this kind of study (GWAS: Genome Wide Association Analysis), so that gives us a bit more confidence that those 10 have something to do with migraine.
Most of the loci were in protein coding genes – genes that make things that could maybe be made wrong and give us horrible headaches, etc. They could have been loci that don’t really do much important, which wouldn’t have told us as much about how migraine might work.
Most of those protein coding genes are for things that have to do with the vascular system and its regulation and some are even genes that cause other vascular diseases. That means we might want to start looking more closely at the vascular system for treatment and cures. This also hints at why blood pressure drugs seem to work for many people’s migraines – even when they don’t have high blood pressure.
The involvement with the vascular system lines up with other stuff we know about migraine
Finding such a link to vascular tissue is consistent with migraine
comorbidities and previously reported shared polygenic risk among
migraine, stroke, and cardiovascular disease, the researchers noted.
And on my favorite topic lately, migraine and BROKEN GUTS – many of the genes get expressed in the guts!
Palotie and his colleagues also searched for tissues that are enriched
for the expression of these 38-migraine associated genes. Based on this
analysis, they found that the most strongly associated tissues were part
of the cardiovascular system, though tissues in the digestive system
also showed enrichment.
Ok, last fact, I promise. It’s really cool though. They found the first ever migraine associated gene on the X chromosome. You know the one ladies and two of and dudes have one of? Could this point to why migraine fucks with so many more women than men?
[I]n 1973, Seymour Diamond and Donald Dalessio, then codirectors of the famous Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago, wrote that the inability of people with migraine to adapt represents the repressed hostility of the migraine patient.
I am actually pretty angry about having a painful and debilitating disease that most people like to treat as an attitude problem so they can tell me to go to therapy and do yoga and meditate and otherwise remove myself from the world where I inconveniently highlight the failures of medicine, our bodies, and our economy.